HEBRON — Regardless of whether his East squad walks off the field victorious following the 20th Annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic on Saturday, Grady Burns will be walking off a winner — if only because he’ll be walking off the field.

Burns, one of the top two-way linemen in the Pine Tree Conference for Edward Little in 2008, will be putting the bow on a fine high school football career at Waterhouse Field, just like the other 87 players taking part in the yearly fundraiser for the Shriners Hospitals (4 p.m. kickoff). Unlike most, if not all of his peers, Burns won’t be taking the simple act of leaving the gridiron under his own power for granted.

The last time Burns left a football field was in an ambulance after he broke his left ankle on the opening kickoff of the PTC championship game against Skowhegan.

“It was a mud bowl, the heaviest rain I’d ever seen at a football game,” he recalled. “I went out to tackle the guy. We both went backwards. My foot stuck in the mud. Everything went back except for my foot and there was a twist.”

He had to listen to the rest of the game, a Skowhegan win, on a radio his girlfriend’s mother brought to the emergency room. 

“It was pretty heart-wrenching,” he said. “The guys that I had grown up with and grown together with the team, they were out there fighting for it and I was in a hospital room across town.”

Burns suffered a four-inch spiral fracture in his fibula, the kind that is particularly slow to heal. It took him about six months to feel comfortable walking without aid of a cane, and he wasn’t sure he’d be physically ready to return to the trenches.

“It’s great to be back on the field, back in pads,” he said. “After
last season, I was kind of wondering where I was going to be at.”

The 5-foot-7, 205 pound Burns may be a bit undersized at the nose tackle, especially going up against some of the behemoths the West will have on its offensive line. But he proved that wasn’t an issue as an all-conference and all-Sun Journal lineman.

His assignment this Saturday will be chasing down Bonny Eagle Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Nate Doehler, Mountain Valley Fitzy semifinalist Justin Staires and some of the other explosive talent on the West. But Burns is mindful of the real reason he and 87 others will be on the field Saturday — to raise money for the Shriners Hospitals.

“This has been a really rewarding experience,” he said. “I had known about
some of the stuff that the Shriners did with the hospitals and things
like that, but this past spring when we had that presentation (by
Shriners’ patient Carrie Holmstrom), it really kind of brought it home
as to what we’re really doing.” 

The Lobster Bowl will bring closure to Burns’ high school career, but not his football career. In a couple of weeks, he’ll be part of the fledgling football program at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Ma.

“It’s in the same league as Husson. We’re probably going to get our butts kicked for the next four years,” cracked Burns, who will study history, “but it will be fun building a dynasty,” . 

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